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CD Reviews: March/April 2017

Bach: Inventions and Sinfonias Zhu Xiao-Mei, piano Accentus Music ACC 30350 [Total Time 45:47] www.accentus.com These inventions and sinfonias serve as a marvelous performance resource for teachers and students. Zhu's approach is forthright, and, within each of these tightly constructed miniatures, the dialogue between the voices is distinct and cl...
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New music reviews: March/April 2017

(S1-4) Signature Solos, Books 1-5, selected and edited by Gayle Kowalchyk. Students and teachers are in for a lively musical journey, with brand-new compositions by favorite Alfred composers, all in one collection! Students will learn pieces by beloved composers including Dennis Alexander, Melody Bober, Martha Mier, Wynn-Anne Rossi, Robert D. Vanda...
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Pupil Saver: Elephant Stomp! by Kevin Olson

If you are looking for music for students who can't sit still during lessons, or who bypass rests like they don't exist, Kevin Olson's late-elementary solo Elephant Stomp (FJH) might be just the thing. This clever piece uses two hands, two feet, and the vast imagination of the student, who must "stomp the floor!" like an elephant. Elephant Stomp is...
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Organ music for manuals only (mostly)

The following list is selective, and it is by no means exhaustive. It represents music (for mostly manuals only and with some minimal pedal) composed for organ, representing all periods and styles from the seventeenth century to the current day. Even the experienced, well-trained organist might appreciate knowing about some of this repertoire and g...
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First Looks: January/February 2017

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Closer Look: (S3-4) Béla Bartók: Ten Easy Pieces, edited by Immanuela Gruenberg. Immanuela Gruenberg creates a real gem for teachers and students alike in her study edition of Béla Bartók's Ten Easy Pieces, Sz. 39. As a study edition, Gruenberg's book will fully inform both teachers and students about Bartók, his use of folk music, and the individu...
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New Music Reviews: January/February 2017

(S3) Preludes to Mastery, Books 1 and 2, by Chrissy Ricker. Chrissy Ricker's two books of preludes provide a fresh and varied assortment of pieces in Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary styles. There are twenty preludes in the two volumes; each is in a different key, thus offering students exposure to keys they might not visit often. Boo...
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On the Value of Art Music Today

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As a promoter of the arts and arts education, in Alberta, Canada (as founder and director of Alberta Pianofest, a summer festival of concerts and piano master classes), I often have occasion to speak before audiences of music-lovers, arts patrons, and potential supporters. These audiences are sympathetic to the cause, and they understand at th...
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Repertoire: Bach's Two-Part Inventions

Affect in J.S. Bach's Two-Part Inventions Bach's oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, was born in 1710 when Bach was twenty-five years old. By the time Wilhelm was ten, his father had instructed him in playing—as well as composing—some rather complex pieces. According to The New Bach Reader, Bach used the Two-Part Inventions and Three-Part Sinfonias as ...
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Repertoire: Pupil saver

Flowers
A cheerful and dependable flower  by Adrienne E. Wiley I love finding new pieces for my students! One of my pupils is ready for character pieces; she is playing late-intermediate literature, and I wanted to find something besides the rather frequently used— although rightly so—Schumann, Gurlitt, Heller, Streabbog, and Burgmüller pieces. I...
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Repertoire: West Coast Youth Ragtime Competition

Preparing for the West Coast Youth Ragtime Competition We were languishing in the summer doldrums when Ryan, my fourteen-year-old piano student, reminded me of the upcoming West Coast Youth Ragtime Piano Competition held in November. My initial response was reserved. "You know, Ryan, I'm not sure how many of my students will travel to the Sacrament...
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What about that bass?

As piano teachers, we commonly show our students how composers divide pieces into three parts, such as in Sonata or Minuet and Trio forms. What  is often missed is that most music is composed with a vertical division of three as well. We are adept at teaching  students to focus on—and voice—the melodic  content. However, often overlo...
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Music notation: A brief look at its historical evolution

In early Medieval times, if one wanted to learn a song, one listened to someone sing it.  ​It wasn't until the ninth century that monks began to experiment with various ways of notating music in written form, with the goal of helping people across a wide geographical area remember the many musical accoutrements of Roman Catholic religious serv...
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Vivid imagery in a piece from China

The Chinese composition "The Young Shepherd with his Little Flute" (in Chinese Folk Music for Children , Schott/Hal Leonard) is not only accessible for late-intermediate pianists, but has a colorful image that will motivate students. When I presented a poster session about the piece at the Ohio Music Teachers Association Southwest conference, many ...
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Learning John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes

I couldn't use percussion instruments for Syvilla's dance, though, suggesting Africa, they would have been suitable; ​ they would have left too little room [on the stage] for her to perform. I was obliged to write a piano piece. I spent a day or so conscientiously trying to find an African 12-tone row. I had no luck. I decided that what was wrong w...
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Discover Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee: A window into the contemporary realm

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The music of Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee provides a refreshing look into the field of contemporary piano teaching repertoire. Rahbee, born in 1938, is an Armenian-American composer whose works for solo piano have been favorably received by pianists and audiences worldwide. She has written more than 200 works, and her catalog includes music for ensembl...
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Better together: Chamber music for all levels

Miki Sawada with her students
What pieces do you remember performing as a young pianist? Were they solo pieces? As pianists, we are lucky to have at our fingertips a seemingly infinite body of solo masterworks. To be able to sit down at an instrument and create music alone is a joyful privilege. It naturally follows that much of traditional piano pedagogy centers around the gre...
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Pupil Saver: Unique; reflective music

Finding interesting late-intermediate literature can be a challenge. In addition to teaching the repertoire standards, I always look for something a bit more out-of- the box, quite often a contemporary composition. I find that the  contemporary music of Dianne Goolkasian Rah bee fits my needs perfectly, and her two sets of preludes provide a w...
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Exploring the melodrama: Works for narrator and piano

Of all the different fusions of literature and music, the melodrama is by far the most neglected and misunderstood.  Since the late eighteenth century, composers have written works for narrator accompanied by piano, orchestra, or chamber ensemble. The first melodramas were declamations with orchestral accompaniment, but over time recitations a...
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Drive and surprise

Here's a piece that captures the attention of everyone from precocious seven-year-olds to late beginners of all ages.  Susan Ogilvy's Toccatina (Alfred) is suitable for students from the late-elementary to early-intermediate levels, is terrifically fun to play, and is often very easy to memorize. Most importantly, however, it sounds more diffi...
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Impressionism for intermediates

​Helen Boykin's 1947 impressionistic gem, Seafoam (Schirmer/Hal Leonard), has remained a student favorite for almost seventy years. I've taught this intermediate piece many times, but it is also a solo that profoundly motivated me when I was a young student. The majority of the piece relies on a bold left-hand melody, with the right hand repeating ...
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